My Life Now

My Life Now October 30, 2017

Editor’s Note: Recently in The Rational Doubt Blog comments section, the Christian educator, author John Mark Reynolds, who also blogs on Patheos at Eidos, suggested this: 

“Stop talking endlessly about us for a month and tell us about your joyful secular lives in detail.”

It seemed like a good idea to me, so I put the word out to Clergy Project members, with these guidelines: “Talk about your secular lives without referring in a negative way to your lives as believing or non-believing clergy.” Below is the first response.


By Matthew Hullinger

When I left the church I wondered what life would be like away from the faith I had grown so accustomed to over the years? Having been raised fundamentalist and minister to a Pentecostal church, life and faith had gone hand in hand. Every experience reminded me of scripture and every special occasion had been surrounded by church family. I remember the depression that hit when I finally left my former faith. It was a dark time but one that I made it through.

So how is my life now?

To say it is overflowing with joy unspeakable would be a bit much, but I can say that each day I awaken to a new experience, happy to be alive. I have a great job thanks to two college degrees and following my dreams. My stress level is at an all-time low compared to my time as a minister, and my family life is amazing.

One of my greatest joys is to read and seek out knowledge. Many topics were off limits in my former faith and so today I embrace them fully. Reading books on topics such as physics, evolution and astronomy has become one of my favorite pastimes.


Learning has always been one of my happiest experiences and living a secular life has knocked down all the walls and obstacles constructed by my faith, and has greatly increased my possibilities to gain new knowledge.

Those who have read past blogs that I have written here will know that when my ministry ended, so too did my marriage. It hadn’t been good from the beginning and yet, due to my faith, I feared what a divorce would do to my life and career. With my marriage over and my number of friends dwindling, I set out on a quest of personal growth, seeking out people I may have hurt in the past and apologizing to them personally. This led me to another wonderful event that I never would have experienced otherwise.

In my early twenties, I had been married for a short period of time to a beautiful redhead who was smart, caring and compassionate to a fault. Unfortunately, life and our young ages led to the destruction of that marriage. Not long after our split, I became very religious and joined the ministry.

Then, after leaving the faith, I contacted my first wife and apologized for my role in our problems. She apologized for her side of things as well. We found that even after so many years, the spark we once felt for one another was still there. Today I am happy to say that I am once again engaged to this beautiful redhead, who is even smarter, more caring, and more compassionate than she was when we were in our twenties. We’ve been together ever since and each day our love grows deeper.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about my mental health today. My faith viewed any form of psychiatry or psychology as evil. Anyone going through some form of mental issue was seen as demon- possessed or oppressed. I learned to deny any issue that I might be going through, so all my life I had been fighting an uphill battle against my own mind. After leaving the faith, my fiancé encouraged me to speak with a therapist about some things that had concerned me for a long time. Over a few months, I received the diagnosis of high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. It completely explained why I had never been comfortable with touch, how over-stimulating the world can be at times, and how badly I struggle with emotions. Getting that diagnosis helped me to understand the one person that I could never get a handle on in my entire life: myself.

When I left the faith I thought my life was over. I had no idea where I was going or even who I really was. My life and the faith had been so intertwined, that I didn’t know where faith ended and I began. Today, in contrast, I understand myself and I enjoy my life, and while it might not always be “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8 KJV), it’s a pretty damn good life.


Matthew HullingerBio: 
Matthew Hullinger is a 33-year-old former Pentecostal minister who lives in the Midwest. After leaving the ministry, Matthew finished college with degrees in Business and Accounting and found a new career in accounting. In his free time, he maintains the “Recovering Theist Support Group” on Facebook.

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  • Geoff Benson

    Whilst this sort of story is encouraging, uplifting almost, I can’t help but think that John Reynolds would criticise it for being too negative about religion.

    Personally I spend about twenty minutes each day reading and pondering religion. It’s entertaining to come to Patheos and find another example of the silliness that religion seems to inspire in its followers, never redeemed by going to any religious site and reading the usually illogical stuff there. Most of the day I spend not thinking about religion.

    • Linda_LaScola

      I hope John Mark Reynolds comes here to provide his own opinion. I contacted him this AM through an “info” email address at a school he heads. I couldn’t find a personal address for him.

      • Linda: I am glad that this effort is being made and have no desire to be churlish about the shots at religion. I can honestly say that I could write (and have written) many posts on the joys of Christianity without taking it out on atheism or any other point of view. However, this chap seems to be coming out of a dark place made worse by a bad version of Christianity. I am glad he is happier.

        Plainly Mr. Hullinger was in a bad situation. First, I am a pastor’s kid and grew up in a fairly conservative household. We were never told a topic was off limits and when my Dad started a Christian school he thought our school should do best on the NYS Regent’s exams (back when they were rigorous!) on the topics listed as forbidden. This was not from “liberalism,” but integrity taught by our Faith. Second, nobody should comment on anybody’s marriage except in very general terms (morally) and I will refrain from doing so here. Finally, if his church thought psychology and psychiatry were evil, I am glad he is out. I was chief academic officer of a school with an entire department given to psychology and worked for a decade and a half at a University with BA-PhD programs in psychology. Both are very conservative Christian institutions. I don’t say this to attack his journey, but to commend his getting out of a bad place. Healthy almost-anything is better than toxic almost anything.

        BTW: I am easy to reach on Twitter (not huge but almost 6K followers) and Facebook.

        • Linda_LaScola

          I personally knew about evolution before I knew how to read, because my mother talked about the Scopes trial a lot, and frankly, the general concept made sense to me. Humans and monkeys look alike. A three-year old can see that. I subsequently learned about evolution in public school. It was not a controversial subject — just another chapter in biology class.

          I was surprised and disturbed to find that a lot of public schools don’t teach evolution or don’t teach it well, and that some Christian denominations actively preach against it. That was not my experience as a Catholic.

          • I don’t think the philosophy of science behind some secular metaphysics is very sound . . . The bulk of my dialog with Niles Eldridge was on that topic. The Christian faith does not depend on any one view of creation which gives us a liberty materialism does not have. If one is a materialist, the very existence of numbers (the consensus of mathematicians) is perilous. There cannot be any personal agency outside the human and even human consciousness becomes a problem.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Religion provides the liberty to make up things. Science depends on evidence.

          • Science depends on evidence, but also a philosophy of science that allows it to operate. Some philosophy of science is sound, some not so much. Imagine a scientist who thought that finding “is” gave you an “ought” . . . Or a scientist who took math for granted and did not notice that math was not part of science. It is easy to do first-rate bench science and have all kinds of nutty beliefs about what science is or implies.

            Science doesn’t do itself! Religion does not provide the liberty to make things up, but also depends on evidence and reason. As different fields of knowledge, religion and science use different tools (as do other fields like math, literature, philosophy).

          • Come on. . . That’s as silly as a generalization like: Relgion provides the liberty to make things up, create and wonder, while atheism is trapped with a sterile metaphysics that cannot see the existence of whole swaths of reality.

            Linda; you have read enough to know that the whole Religion VERSUS Sciience is bogus. Bad philosophy of science. . .

        • Matthew Hullinger

          Perhaps it would be good for you to define the line between a good and bad version of Christianity?

          • Matthew: I think we can agree that any good philosophy/religion will pursue reason where it leads. Any good philosophy/religion will value science and provide a rational grounds for science. Any sensible philosophy/religion will attend to what best science is saying about what “is” at the moment. Any good philosophy/religion will let science interact with metaphysics and allow both to shape each other. A good philosophy/religion will also value the knowledge the arts/humanities give us and provide a basis for pursuing that.

            I think any form of Christianity that depends on culture/science (often built by Christians), but then rejects both is obviously bad. It is bad Christianity, because of the very nature of Jesus. Jesus is the Word, the divine Logos (Word/Logic) and so Christians must follow Reason where it leads. Wisdom calls aloud for us and we must love wisdom (philosophy!), but avoid foolish endlessly religious speculations about angels or genealogies (false philosophy). We will have an ethic based on love (as opposed to concepts like honor).

            I like the fact that Christianity wants to know what is TRUE about ideas like evolution. I was taught growing up: learn it, think about, follow the evidence. Good Christianity is also global. Most American Christian problems come from forgetting most Christians are not American! Those are some first thoughts.

            I am not (by the way) arguing you were not a Christian or insincere in your faith, just that what you were told is antithetical to what so conservative a school as Biola University would have taught or even a Pentecostal college like Evangel (where I know the awesome President Carol Taylor). She would have encouraged you to go to a psychologist. In any case, there are toxic forms of every belief (including atheism) and no idea is so awesome that people cannot ignore or screw it up. Christians are told to love our enemies and we don’t often do that.

            I certainly do NOT think atheists are the enemy. I owe individual atheists a great deal. My complaint is the inability of what we might call “professional public” or pop atheism to do much positive and to fall into the worst sort of negativity, name calling, and narrowness. We all see that religious who think “all atheists” are dumb or self-refuting or immoral have missed it. In the same way, the continuous generalizations about theists are neither healthy for our Republic, fair to the thousands of American immigrants who heard such talk as a prelude to active persecution in the name of atheism and are triggered by it, or to atheism. We can get along, but only if we stop assuming everyone on the other team is moron. Atheists have their grifters and professional speakers making dough on the circuit with essentially no credentials to talk about anything. We have the same.

        • Linda_LaScola

          I’m not very twitter savvy — didn’t know you could contact people via twitter and don’t know how many followers I have – and would be be unlikely to mention it if I did.

          • OK. My point was that in previous threads I have pointed out that one can dialog with me (as people have) via Twitter and Facebook. It appears you think I mentioned my “number” to boast but to the contrary, I meant that I am not super hard to find, but my numbers are tiny (not even “blue check mark” worthy) compared to real users. It would be like bragging about a mediocre golf score!

            Anyway . . . Glad you found me. Glad for this attempt. . . And hope somebody can write a religion free paeon to atheism!

          • Linda_LaScola

            You have my email. If you gave me yours, I promise not to distribute it. I’m good at confidentiality.

            I thought dialoguing on twitter meant sending tweets back and forth – not having private conversations,as in email. But as I said, I’m not twitter savvy. And I don’t see a reason for mentioning one’s number of followers in a general discussion of twiiter.

            I asked people to write essays because I thought it would make an interesting series — It doesn’t include the concept of a “paeon to atheism”

          • Well you have a good email now so write away! You asked them to write essays not critical of religion and this person failed. It’s a good essay but doesn’t do what you asked in italics. I have no idea why you are stuck in the number thing… but you do you.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I don’t have an email address for you.

          • You have an email address for my employer and I got your email. Yes?

    • Geoff: Try. Let’s have a thread where we appreciate each other’s perspective. I appreciate mentoring serious atheists gave me as a philosopher and lessons about living the examined life (from atheists) that made me a better person (and Christian). Let’s have a jolly thread!

    • mason lane

      Geoff, I wonder how John would expect a person who has found a new positive, happy, enriched and very fulfilling life write about it with out negative implication about the former life? The story, of necessity, doesn’t start in a historic vacuum, but must entail juxtaposition of the old unsatisfying life. There seems to be an inherent Catch 22 in the writing assignment since there’s no way escape the fact that the old life was so negative the writer went through the struggle and emotional discomfort to create a new life. For a former fundamentalist or Evangelical type believer, this transition can be a painful and costly child birth to make it to a new joyous life.

      • I have many formerly atheist friends . . . and they DO often write a book about their experiences as atheists. Often those experiences had negative implications and were deeply unsatisfying. They say this and then move on to working out a positive, life affirming message. For former atheist unbelievers, the transition can be a painful and costly childbirth, but I see no evidence they do not begin to create an alternative culture that is not just a mirror image of their old pain.

        • It seems healthy to let deconverts of both types vent (and recall that perhap a majority of kids raised secular convert to religion). What seems very odd is an entire site dedicated to what amounts to 24/7 attacks on one religion. Give us a positive picture of what living out a happy secular life in a world becoming more religious is. My friends who are in minority religions (Mormon friends) do a good job of this. Mostly they build an alternative and let us see. If you killed all the anti-religion posts on Patheos non-religion what would be left? After all Patheos Evangelical does not spend all its time trying to convert people . . . or attacking y’all.

          • mason lane

            The picture of a healthy, happy, thriving secular culture being lived is all around you. Uncover your eyes and open the ears.

          • Where? I don’t see it here. I see people working out hatred, anger, and pain. Some of it may be justified. . . Almost none of the posts on this general site do anything more than mock and ridicule. If you are a US American, then you live in a nation built by a Christian super-majority (for good and bad) and that still has a Christian super-majority (for good and bad). You are living in a culture built mostly by people who do not agree with you. We are happy you are building a thriving secular sub-culture, but we don’t see that evidence. When I go to secular boards and read (and I do for academic purposes), I see a community that is a splintered, angry, and spends more time attacking us or each other than writing about beauty, goodness, or truth. That seems sad. That’s my challenge to you. Some of the best and greatest people I know are non-religious, but they are not represented here . . . Basically ever. There is more Jesus Mythicism (a fringe view) expressed in this community than positive discussions about child rearing as secularists (without slams on anyone else.

            Again my friends who are minority religions in the US AND are converts to those religions do not spend most of their time calling names or denigrating others points of view. That’s ugly.

        • mason lane

          Then you need to take off your blinders as our society and social media is replete with the new. You have created an illusion that you believe.

          • You mean our society that was built and contains a Christian super majority today? Where the biggest holiday is Christmas? Where we sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic without a blush? Where “God Bless America” has no secular equivalent? Sure. This “new” world is it the Hollywood sub-culture? Is it atheist social media which (as I read it) is either bashing other people’s beliefs or each other? I do not see it. I just asking someone to tell me what you are building. What? Where? How is it new and not dependent on the old?

          • mason lane

            Ok, I’ll tell you and show you but you probably won’t hear or see.

            Secularism builds individual lives and a society where the scourge of religious nonsense is absent and we drop the ancient mental religious delusions and are left with the gold of reality and the absence of delusional religious dross.

          • First, secularism has never built a society with a majority. Secularists have seized control of societies, but that has gone badly. The rest of this is just saying “religion is wrong and we are right so that is better.” It certainly is better to be right than wrong, but that is what we are disputing. In fact, I encourage this blog to focus on art, music, literature, theater, nature, math, human spirit, sex, cosmos, friendship, history, science, imagination, dreams . . .

            You could show us how having been given this culture by religious cultures how you sustain them.
            You could write an ENTIRE post that did not put us down. Read Linda’s charge. Read the post. It certainly could be done. I could do it for atheists (one had to think like an atheist in different grad classes) . . . But Patheos non-religious seems to struggle with it.

          • Geoff Benson

            No, that isn’t how it has worked.

            Societies emerge, they grow, they evolve. At some point along the way, perhaps at their very birth, they look around in wonder…and invent gods. As societies improve those gods become more refined, and infinitely more confusing. The US is rare in a modern, developed, western nation in clinging to its superstition, though there are strong signs that it is beginning to emerge from this pernicious culture. I know you are good with words, and that you feel that religion competes with secularism on level terms, but I don’t think so. You invent disparaging terms, such as ‘pop’ atheist, or similar (to be fair, I can be guilty of the same, though I try to avoid it) but then you say something like the following

            “I think any form of Christianity that depends on culture/science (often built by Christians), but then rejects both is obviously bad. It is bad Christianity, because of the very nature of Jesus. Jesus is the Word, the divine Logos (Word/Logic) and so Christians must follow Reason where it leads. Wisdom calls aloud for us and we must love wisdom (philosophy!), but avoid foolish endlessly religious speculations about angels or gene”

            To anybody but a Christian this makes no sense whatsoever. Jesus is a Christian construct. You can maybe reason your way to the existence of a person on whom the biblical Jesus was based, but that’s the limit of how far you get with reason. Simply taking out the very silliest of discussion, such as how many angels can balance on a pin, simply shifts the debate to other areas of, what I regard, as silliness. Your approach to reason, for example, is to want to engage commenters here in the philosophy of atonement, or redemption, then call us unreasonable for refusing. You must first reason from the bottom, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll get some responders.

          • The use of “modern” and “developed” to describe nations you favor is usually viewed as ethnocentrism in the contemporary academy.

            Second, the nations you cite had Christian super-majorities until very recently. For example, all the Christian Democratic parties that helped create modern Europe are not named Atheist Democratic. Has Europe secularized? Yes. How is that going? We will see, but they are not sustaining a population and generally a worldview that cannot encourage reproduction has failed at a very basic Darwinian level.

            Third, your secularization thesis is unpersuasive. First, it assumes what you set out to prove: God is invented. Second, nations like the UK had Christian super-majorities in my lifetime and still have millions of Christians. Nations like Germany are still governed by parties founded after World War II by Christians. None of these nations have a majority of atheists. Globally, Christianity is rapidly growing in places like India and China that probably represent more the future in economic and social terms than older nations such as France and the UK.

            As for your further point: assume Jesus is a Christian construct. It still motivated the formation of the culture in which you live (for good and bad) overwhelmingly. It still does. As a result, a charitable reading of what we think (even if wrong) makes sense. There is no attempt to do so in your post.

            Of course, I do not agree that reason cannot give you more than the existence of Jesus. That’s the subject of many books. You may be right, but your certainty is disproportionate to the evidence you have cited. I may be right, but maybe not. Certainty that the other team is wrong is a bad sign in a thinker.

            When people say a Christian belief “x” is silly or dumb or evil or child abuse, integrity demands defending the strong statement and saying why. Refusal to defend their really strong opinions is intellectually dishonest. Again: the point is not that I am surely right. I am not surely right. The point is that I am not saying: atheism is stupid, raising a kid as an atheist is abusive reality denial, or atheism is irrational. If I did that would be beyond the evidence . . . As is the reverse for an atheist.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            America is secular in the sense that it was founded without an official national church, but the stated reason given for founding it was to better “secure these rights” — those “unalienable” human rights “endowed by their Creator.”

            You speak of “positive” activity in business, sports, etc.

            I’m all for “positive” activity, but if you don’t merely mean by “positive activity”, activity you just happen to like or personally approve of, how can “positive” activity be properly distinguished from negative?

            What standard or measure could you apply, in “the absence of delusional religious dross, once you “drop the ancient mental religious delusions?”


        • Geoff Benson

          You often refer to your ‘former’ atheist friends. I don’t think I accept this. I don’t think it’s possible, well perhaps very rarely indeed, to move from a position of pure reason, to one based on faith, which includes, at least in part, an abrogation of reason. Reason is a one way street; you can’t back down it, except in very exceptional circumstances.

          I’m not saying it’s not possible to be an apparently reasoned believer; I’m sure you are sincere. However, it’s almost impossible to be a serious atheist, then move to religious belief.

          • So I have more than a few. What is “pure reason”? I am all for reason (the more pure the better). Faith is not an abrogation of reason . . . For an informal dialog on this see my discussion with Michael Shermer where he agreed faith can be reasonable. Existentialists (both religious and secular) have a different view of faith and reason, but I don’t agree with them.

            Second, what is a serious atheist? Was my friend Professor Holly Ordway an atheist? She was one, studied, thought, and became a theist. You may not like her reasons or think they are lacking, but so? That is the nature of being reasonable . .. we do the best we can. She is fearsomely bright, very well educated, successful as a secular scholar, and was convinced not be to one through thinking. I could multiple her story many times over.

            The intellectual trap of thinking one’s team has a hammer lock on reason is (I think) bad epistemology and (in a republic) bad politics. It is so arrogant. I have students that I love that reason leads to become atheists. I think they are wrong, but obviously they think I am wrong! Let’s keep working together! More often, as people think, they come to some form of theism. There are reasonable conversions in both directions and crazy ones. (“I saw Jesus in toast, he exists!” Or “Jesus never existed, some nineteenth century fringe scholar convinced me!)

          • Geoff Benson

            I don’t disagree that faith can appear reasoned once certain assumptions have been made. ‘Pure’ reason doesn’t need these assumptions.

            Explain why your reasoned students who are atheists are wrong.

          • First of all I would need you to define “pure” reason. Reason is a tool . . . Like logic it is helpful, but it grinds what it is given. I strive to live reasonably (as purely as possible). Second, why would I explain to you why my students are wrong? That’s their job. I think theism is true. I am persuaded by a combination of religious experience, sociology, and philosophical arguments. I think the fact that mathematics works, numbers (probably) exist, and that science is as makes theism more plausible than not. Obviously, your mileage varies. Cool.

          • I actually WANTED to be an atheist . . . My life would have been simpler but reason deterred me. That’s my experience . . . Obviously others have different expriences. We do the best we can. Jerk theists who say all atheists are disturbed or just want to be immoral are the equivalent of pop atheists who are sure they are right by defining “faith” in weird ways that most theists reject or thinking Jesus mythicism is a serious idea by rewriting rules of historical or documentary evidence.

          • Geoff Benson

            Why would your students be best placed to explain to me why they are wrong?

            That aside, you’ve provided no reason for me to accept your worldview. Religious experience is a very personal thing, and impossible to generalise. Sociology? Yes, religious belief appears to be built into our systems, but that can be explained naturally. Philosophical arguments for God are terrible; even the best are simply semantic gymnastics.

            I have no idea what mathematics, numbers, or science (understanding reality through observation and reason) have to do with theism.

          • Mr. Benson: let’s assume it is impossible to generalize religious experience. I am not asking you to convert based on my religious experience, just holding up evidence for why I can reasonably be a theist. Second, religious belief as part of human structure (the natural state) can be explained naturally. Should it? That is the discussion.Third, the idea that philosophical arguments for the existence of God are terrible is not supported by discussion in the relevant discipline. There are sound arguments for God’s existence and the discussion is about persuasiveness generally of particular premises. See the ontological argument in modern forms, for example.

            Calling something semantic gymnastic is just an insult and not productive to a discussion. Right? If I said your attempt to ignore arguments for the existence of God by insult was just “semantic smokescreen” that would get us no place. My point here has not been to argue for God’s existence, but to suggest four things: 1. Patheos non-religion is almost incapable of writing a post that is not mostly about religion and negative toward religion 2. Notions that either atheists or theists are obviously wrong, dumb, irrational, all murderers are false. Everyone has bad players. Everyone has good players. 3. Globally theism is growing as a percentage of the population, so nones would be well served to make peace with rational players where they can. Theists should do the same on general principles! 4. Linda’s group (The Clergy Project) often has people who hate the things they collect a paycheck to say. This is morally wrong and nobody has defended it on moral grounds. All that has been said is that people scamming in those situations are in a tough spot and need to lie to get paid. Of course, people are (sometimes) in a tough spot, but that does not make taking an old ladies money through falsehoods any more moral. (I needed it!) She did too.

          • Geoff Benson

            1. The ontological argument in any form is simply a cynical way in which language, never more than a clumsy tool in conveying concepts, is manipulated into appearing to support a point of view. I’m not saying it isn’t possible for religious philosophers to have weighty discussions on the subject (atheists also: see Secular Outpost), but I find it rather akin to astrologers discussing the relative merits of different star signs.

            2. Personal testimony based on personal experience is, indeed, evidence. However, to paraphrase Carl Sagan, there are many examples of exotic personal experiences not shared by others, there are many examples of much less exotic experience that are shared by many, but there are no examples of exotic experience that are shared by many.

            3. I use the term ‘semantic gymnastics’ because I prefer it to the term ‘word salad’, but I don’t withdraw it. You are welcome to use any term you wish in response, though I don’t disagree that it’s better not to dwell on labels, and to concentrate on arguments.

            4. Of course Patheos non religious deals mainly in issues concerning religion, though there are many posts that aren’t overtly religious (do you read Tippling Philosopher?). The point is that a dedicated ‘non religious’ site exists for several reasons, including giving voice to those who are afraid to ‘come out’, such is the vice like grip of religious fundamentalism in many areas. Inevitably people want to read and write about non religion; most, like me, spend the remainder of the day hardly thinking about it, but Patheos is there for when we do want to.

            5. I know you like to think that religion is somehow on the up, despite all evidence to the contrary. The UK is now down to 3% Church of England support amongst 18-25 year olds and religion has become largely irrelevant in the country, except that religious education is still something we tolerate, and which religious institutions continue to exploit. The US is increasing the number of ‘nones’, though the pernicious grip seems difficult to lose in many areas. Those countries that still hold onto religion such as Nigeria (my brother is head of a school in Nigeria, so I’m almost first hand on this), do so because of lack of education and lack of opportunity. As populations become more educated and economically better off, so religion dwindles.

            6. In any event, why Christianity? Why shouldn’t I be a follower of Mohammed? Or a Buddhist? Or, close to home, regard Joseph Smith as a great prophet?

            Just to say that I do enjoy engaging in this debate, but I’m not sure there’s anything much new either of us can bring to the table.

          • You haven’t brought anything to the table in terms of argument. You have simply opined. That’s your right, but it is not a refutation. Is the ontological argument invalid or does it have a false premise? It is quite brief (not a word salad).

          • Geoff Benson

            Well of course there are many ontological arguments. The problem for me is that every single one, without exception, is so easily parodied. For example, take Anselm, who I think might have offered the first one. He said something like: if you can conceive of a perfect being, God, then it must be able to improve on this by existing, not just in the mind, but in reality. A parody says that a being that doesn’t exist but can be perfect is even more awesome…

            Ontological arguments are a bit like the Frank Morrison book Who Moved the Stone: they convince none other than those who alreday believe.

          • First, thank you for the tone. I appreciate debate and though I don’t mind strong language do get tired of it at times. Some reflections on your post. As I always have to do, pardon certain errors as my vision is bad and any box like this makes my particular (odd) visual problems worse.

            Second, I think you would need to reflect more carefully on language and its relationship to “reality” to make the claim you have made about an argument. Of course, philosophers can discuss anything looking for validity, but that is not the majority of the academic discussion of the ontological argument. I know of at least one philosopher who became a theist through studying it.

            BTW: Secular Outpost is always a good read in the hard task of translating good philosophy to a mainstream audience.

            Third, Sagan was a great communicator, but not a very careful thinker. Religious experience qua religious experience is widely shared and has similar characteristics. Each such experience has particular elements, but that does not mean that each is sui generis. The real difference is how we interpret that experience and on that any religion is underdetermined (as is any scientific theory) by the evidence from experience. See Quine on scientific theories and evidence.

            Fourth, Patheos non-religion mostly engages in attacks on religion. That seems sad as if secularism is true, we would expect more. Western Europeans and Americans who are secular live in cultures that were overwhelmingly built by Christian people. Can seculars maintain or improve those places? It is not obvious that seculars can even generate enough children to survive and a cultural idea that discourages reproduction at the replacement level is not . . .prudent.

            Fifth, since the world’s largest nation by population is controlled by atheists who use some of the same agitprop we see here the non-religious might want to consider that in a global Internet the atheist school teacher in Alabama in fear of his job may be paralleled by four Chinese Christian students afraid to come out lest they go to labor camps. Neither situation is good and we both are opposed to fear based proselytization. I have just noticed in discussions here with many a kind of pukka sahib attitude toward the “third world” or areas outside of the United States.

            Sixth, there is no evidence that secularism is “on the up” globally. All the evidence suggests that it is shrinking. (See the point about not making child bearing/rearing desirable or easy.) If you think the future is England (55 million Englishmen?), then that’s against the evidence. The future is in India, China, and sub-Saharan Africa. To simply look at those cultures as poor and associate religion with the poverty is particularly offensive for Western formerly colonial powers to do. (“If you just got some good schooling and gave up your primitive ways,” Blimp said sipping his iced drink, “you would do so much better.” )

            Seventh, to say that countries that hold on to religion do so out of a lack of education is a manifestation of crude version of the secularization thesis. That idea has proven difficult to defend and cases like the USA are treated in ad hoc ways by advocates. When the correlation between religion and education is studied in finer detail without colonial era bias (is the correlation of education and religion in a tiny country like Canada predictive of India?), then the evidence is much more mixed or counter to your thesis. For example, though hard to measure exactly due to atheist persecution, Chinese people are turning to religion in large numbers. They are not “poor” and “uneducated.” For finer tooth studies on education and religion Wikipedia actually summarizes the data pretty well. We both could find good studies that tell us what we want to hear. For example, your data on Britain is out of date. More educated people are now likely to be more religious.

            It is hard to measure “religiosity,” but it is also hard to get a culturally neutral picture of education. Is the monolingual BA from CUNY in sociology (who has units in Spanish, but no Spanish) more educated than the five language speaking Uber driver with an AA? Yes by the standards of some of these studies, but that’s hard to defend. Is the BA (who does not read books after college) less religious because of “knowledge” or due to socialization in class values peculiar to his area? Finally, the evidence seem pretty conclusive that if s/he practices his or her faith in high school, then college makes no impact. This suggests a more complex picture than you describe.

            In any case, it is just a fact that the white male demographic that atheists are (disproportionately) is in decline globally and those demographics that are more religious are growing.

            Finally, why Christianity? That is a second order question once we accept the overwhelmingly probable fact that immaterial beings exist (at the very least numbers) and begin to explain that reality. It is an important question, but not relevant to this discussion. We have to determine if there is a Great Britain still (and not just an England, Scotland, Wales, etc.) before arguing about what Britain should be.

          • Geoff Benson

            “That is a second order question once we accept the overwhelmingly probable fact that immaterial beings exist (at the very least numbers) and begin to explain that reality. It is an important question, but not relevant to this discussion. We have to determine if there is a Great Britain still….”

            What evidence have you to support the existence of ‘immaterial beings’?

            As for Great Britain? Well, I don’t know what to say. If, and when, Brexit happens it may well result in a break up of Great Britain. I’m one of a tiny minority optimistically hoping it doesn’t happen.

          • I love Great Britain. Genetically I am dully Anglo-Saxon . . . Even though we left in 1621! I hope she survives.

            Let’s start with numbers. The mathematical consensus is that they exist as mind independent immaterial entities (mathematical Platonism). The alternatives are motivated by materialism and have failed to satisfy most experts in the field.

            This is particularly powerful because while math is not subject to science to advance, science needs math. In fact, math has often provided tools to science, they did not know they needed until later!

          • Geoff Benson

            Ah right. I was thinking in terms of ‘disembodied spirits’, or some such for immaterial beings. But yes, maths is a sound one, though I’m not overly interested in the debate ((it’s much more applicable than the suggestion that colours exist, independent of the things they colour).

            Incidentally, when it comes to the relationship between maths and science (I agree they aren’t necessarily the same thing), I always recount the solving of Fermat’s Last Theorem by Andrew Wiles. Wiles tucked himself away for 7 years trying to work on the theorem, then announced that he’d found the solution. The mathematical world was astonished, and delighted, but that soon turned when other mathematicians found a flaw in the fiendishly complicated solution. So Wiles tucked himself away for another year, certain his solution needed tweaking only, then emerged to announce he’d fixed the flaw. The rest of the mathematical world now agreed. This is a fantastic example of peer review pushing for a correct solution, not desperately clinging to one that was flawed.

          • Yes. Agreed. When peer review works, it is awesome. No complaints there.

            The problem is that the (relatively) certain falsity of materialism when it comes to weird things like numbers brings us to consciousness. Materialism hasn’t done well there either (see Dennett). If we already know that immaterial things exist, why not consciousness?

            Once that door is open all kinds of personal agents might exist without any “spookiness.”

          • Geoff Benson

            Mathematics is unusual, as it is the language used to describe much of the world around us, yet can also seem to be independent of it. I say ‘seem’ deliberately, because I’m not convinced it really has an independent ‘existence’. It’s of assistance in pretty well everything we do, and life would be very different if we didn’t understand it, but I’m not sure that makes it ‘real’. I look on mathematics rather the same as conjuring tricks; my jaw drops at some of the astounding results it produces, but I know that the underlying ‘trick’ is an illusion, or at least counterintuitive.

            Consciousness is another matter. I tend to the view that it is nothing more than the way in which we view, and make sense, of the world. It has no independent reality. It often seems infallibly aware, yet we know it is susceptible to the least influence, that it trips us constantly, that it seems reliable yet is the opposite, is subject to constant change. Given that I am a determinist I can see why consciousness (awareness) is like this. I don’t think it needs to be over complicated.

          • Except what you said about consciousness isn’t really about the “hard problem.” We are talking about “you-ness” not mere awareness.

          • Geoff Benson

            I don’t see why there need be a distinction. ‘You-ness’ is awareness from just one, self contained, perspective.

          • See Nagel.

          • I should note that Wilson is NOT a friend. I just referred to him, because he has written on the sheer lunacy of much of pop atheism as a former atheist.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Hello again!

            Former atheist here, I don’t see how belief in God abrogates reason. If God doesn’t exist, it is reasonable not to believe in Him; conversely, if God does exist it is reasonable to believe in Him.

            Also, if we really thought we found ourselves in the materialist’s universe, why should we believe in reason or our thinking at all, think it trustworthy, leads to solid conclusions?

            But even if I’m mistaken about this and our thoughts, even our selves, turned out to be real somehow, and not merely the products of brain chemistry or voltage, and really could reason our way to facts, why would it be especially important to go with the facts? Wouldn’t we just go with whatever made us feel better? (Yes, I know this is more or less the charge thrown at theists by atheists, I used to throw it myself.) If the answer of the atheist is that she is a principled atheist, who wants to do the right thing, bravely face the cold impersonal universe, without copping out for some (perceived) superstition, can’t the theist, with justice, say that on the basis of atheism, “principled”, “right”, “brave” etc are all just as meaningless as the universe?

          • Geoff Benson

            Let me reply to two of your points:

            “If God doesn’t exist, it is reasonable not to believe in Him; conversely, if God does exist it is reasonable to believe in Him.”

            That sounds reasonable on the face of it, but the problem for me is that it’s considered reasonable to believe in God even though he doesn’t (I think) exist. If he does exist then provide evidence. Nobody has ever provided evidence that is in the least way convincing.


            “If the answer of the atheist is that she is a principled atheist, who wants to do the right thing, bravely face the cold impersonal universe, without copping out for some (perceived) superstition, can’t the theist, with justice, say that on the basis of atheism, “principled”, “right”, “brave” etc are all just as meaningless as the universe.”

            This gets tougher, but only because I dispute your use of the term ‘meaningless’. I’ve never been convinced by the use of the word ‘meaning’ in the first place, as it us used by theists but, that aside, why should my life be regarded as meaningless, simply because it ends after a relatively short period of time. I do think that the universe is an amazing thing, both wonderful and grotesquely horrible, but I don’t equate my life to the universe. I’m having a ‘meaningful’ time engaging with yourself, and later I’ll do things that are equally meaningful, or meaningless, probably little different to the things theists do. No, ‘meaningless’ is another of those terms dreamt up by theists to try and justify their beliefs, but it doesn’t work.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            For your the first point, I’d think you’d want to start with conceptual framework in which you’re first honest with yourself about what form(s) of evidence for the existence of God you would accept, so that you really are ready to embrace it if you find it!

            Also, can we agree that if the supposed shortage of evidence (it’s all around us, say theists) is due to trying to locate a Spiritual Being with a mechanical apparatus, that a) this is probably doomed from the start, so insisting on such is rigging the game, as b) there is no such evidence against God’s existence, so c) what we’re left with is at most, agnosticism, not atheism.

            For the second point, I wasn’t trying to rain on your parade. Rather, I’m glad you find your life personally meaningful. But isn’t that different from it having some ultimate meaning, so that what you consider your highest aspirations, to nobility, courage or heroism, to do the right thing, even under difficult circumstances, to be a good man, husband, father etc might all find some echo or resonance with the universe, might actually BE the Right Thing in the cosmic story instead of being wholly arbitrary and in some cases, merely self-destructive or foolish selections?

          • Geoff Benson

            As regards the second point, what is ‘ultimate meaning’? I think you mean something eternal, that things you do today have an effect that goes on forever. I don’t think that. Eventually this universe will collapse back on itself, or else expand until it is completely burnt out. ‘Meaning’ exists within that framework.

            As for evidence, that’s for you. I have no idea what would convince me of the existence of any form of god. If you produce anything philosophical I’ll not even consider that evidence. The ‘ontological argument’ proves only that you can understand words. ‘Oh gosh, look at the sky, that proves there’s a god’ is nothing of the sort. It suggests there’s something we describe as the sky, but that’s it. Or perhaps you think ‘miracles’ help. What miracles? Even if you can produce something seemingly inexplicable, you don’t get to god, just something you can’t explain.

            And don’t confuse agnosticism with atheism. I accept they are linked, but atheism is simply a state of mind that says there’s no evidence for any type of god. Agnosticism, is an approach that says belief in god should be based on knowledge, so sits on the fence.

        • Linda_LaScola

          Could you reference some of those books?

          • Since she was (until recently) a colleague you could start with Professor Holly Ordway and then turn to another former colleague Mary Jo Sharp.

          • I think disgust with this sort of atheism propelled AN Wilson out your ranks. Love him or hate him . . . He is wicked smart and a great read.

          • Geoff Benson

            AN Wilson is losing it. I’m not overly familiar with his writings overall, but his latest book on Darwin suggests he is just plain losing the plot. Writing about things which are outside your area of expertise is just plain foolish.


          • He was and is a public intellectual… this is what he always has done. See his book on C.S. Lewis.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I see that Rodway once identified as an atheist, but Sharp, like many believers, only mentions doubts in her bio – no mention of atheism. Who are some of your other many formerly atheist friends who have written books?

          • Sharp was an atheist. Here is her personal site found on Google page 1 of Mary Jo Sharp:

          • I am also friends and hired Lee Strobel. Try a quick Google on former atheists. I just named two women and a man off my immediate contact list!

          • Linda_LaScola

            Three is not “many.” This claim reminds me of when, in response the non-believing clergy pilot study in 2010, you said we had interviewed “many” clergy.

            In fact, we had interviewed six and reported on five (one chose to drop out), which was mentioned on the first page of the paper.

          • You really are reaching. Without effort I listed three fairly prominent people I personally know. I know other less prominent people and other more prominent ones. You seem to be obsessed with one early misreading I made of your document. If it helps you, I misread and you had not yet interviewed more than six people. Linda: do you really believe that many atheist raised kids do not leave secularism? You are so small data is hard to get that is super hard, but all the data I have seen shows a strong attrition rate from atheist raised kids. Don’t be so sensitive to this fact.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Please show me your data. I’ve mentioned what you are now calling “an early misreading” twice, in context. I notice that you comment about lying for money repeatedly — is that a sign of being obsessed?

            I think words matter. So if you know “many” former atheists who have written books, listing them should be easy. Perhaps you misspoke, like you did in the On Faith essay. If so, you can take your words back.

            I have no idea if “many” kids who are “raised atheist” (you mean without religion?) leave secularism. I’ve not seen data on it. If you have, I’d like to see it – as long as it’s from a neutral, respected source (e.g., Pew).

          • Just over half of those who were raised with no religious affiliation (53%) still identify as religious “nones,” one of the lower retention rates among religious traditions. The low retention rate of the religiously unaffiliated may seem paradoxical, since they ultimately obtain bigger gains through religious switching than any other tradition. Despite the fact that nearly half of those raised unaffiliated wind up identifying with a religion as adults, “nones” are able to grow through religious switching because people switching into the unaffiliated category far outnumber those leaving the category. A quarter of those raised as mainline Protestants have become “nones,” along with 20% of those raised Catholic, 15% of those raised in the evangelical Protestant tradition and 13% of those raised in the historically black Protestant tradition. Y’all were tiny and have been on a de-conversion (front door), but are some of the worst (as far as we can tell) at retention. Again y’all are so tiny . . . AND nones are not atheists so it is hard to get perfect data. Still: plenty of kids raised secular are leaving . . . in fact more than almost any group as far as we can tell. One thing religious people need to start doing is letting them tell their stories.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I thought perhaps you were quoting Pew until you used “Y’all.”

            Interesting — I took a quick look at the data and notice that your link did not go to the executive summary, but to Chapter 2 on religious switching and intermarriage. I noticed this passage:

            After all, every religious tradition ultimately loses some of the people who were raised within its fold, and every tradition (including the unaffiliated) gains some members who join its ranks after having been raised in a different group.

            Looked at this way, the data clearly show that part of the reason the religious “nones” have grown rapidly in recent decades is that they continue to be the single biggest destination of movement across religious boundaries. Nearly one-in-five American adults (18%) were raised in a religion and are now unaffiliated, compared with just 4% who have moved in the other direction. In other words, for every person who has left the unaffiliated and now identifies with a religious group more than four people have joined the ranks of the religious “nones.”

            Then I went to the executive summary (the beginning of the report) and found this title and sub-title:

            New Pew Research Center Study Examines America’s Changing Religious Landscape

            Survey of 35,000 Americans Finds Christians Have Declined Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Have Continued to Grow

          • This is directly from Pew and makes my point: Just over half of those who were raised with no religious affiliation (53%) still identify as religious “nones,” one of the lower retention rates among religious traditions. The low retention rate of the religiously unaffiliated may seem paradoxical, since they ultimately obtain bigger gains through religious switching than any other tradition. Despite the fact that nearly half of those raised unaffiliated wind up identifying with a religion as adults, “nones” are able to grow through religious switching because people switching into the unaffiliated category far outnumber those leaving the category. A quarter of those raised as mainline Protestants have become “nones,” along with 20% of those raised Catholic, 15% of those raised in the evangelical Protestant tradition and 13% of those raised in the historically black Protestant tradition.

          • Linda_LaScola

            John Mark – You have repeated yourself. Most of this is copied verbatim from your last comment.

          • I was pointing out the part that came from Pew. Nones are very bad at retaining their kids.

          • I assume based on Pews direct finding copied above that you concede Nones attrition rate of kids is high? So if you teach it isn’t shocking to meet them…

          • Linda_LaScola

            concede? Are we having a contest, or reading research results? I see that less than half of children raised without religion become religious as adults, and there are more adults leaving religion than becoming religious. Thus the nones are growing.

            What I think is interesting is that there’s not a recruiting effort for nones. It’s happening on its own. More and more people are falling away from organized religion, just as I did. Some of them become atheists – like me and TCP members. (My trajectory is Catholic, None/believer, Episcopalian, None/atheist.) Other Nones just avoid church, which means church work is not a growth industry.

          • You asked for evidence. I gave evidence that supports my claims that many people leave secularism.

            We are reading research results and they support my contention that if one teaches many students one will meet many adults who left non-religion for religion. I am asking you to admit/concede/agree with my point: as far as we can tell “nones” lose a very high percentage of their kids (relative to other groups).

            Second, religious people are still a vast majority of Americans. Even small percentages of religious people doing a thing will lead to large numbers doing a thing.

            Third, I have not denied that in the US there are fewer religious people and fewer Christians as a percent of the population than there were.

            However, we were such a super-majority that it is easy to make too much of this. Amongst young millinials (much touted) 71% believe in God with at least a fair amount of certainty (the vast majority of those are absolutely certain). I am not absolutely certain God exists!

            It is hard to find many ideas in America that gets 71% or higher amongst all age groups.

            56% identify as Christian. Will this age group do what most have done and become more religious as they get older? We will see. It doesn’t take too many spiritual/theist non-Christians (a huge group) to join what is already a majority to get back to the norm. Even if one sees the 56% stay stable, this is a majority and since the most attrition occurred in the most nominal, there is no reason to think the rate of change will continue. I accept the data, but also think both extreme (professional) atheists have reason to overread it (triumphalism sells in a minority community) and in the majority Christian culture (that can be grift too).

            Will the trend continue? We do not know. We know that globally religion is increasing as a percentage of global population and secularism decreasing. We also know that China is experiencing religious growth, but that is hard to measure due to state atheism.

            Being “nothing” is in fact easier than committing to a religion. As adults it is easier to NOT do something (go to church) than do it. It is natural that when religions faced problems (Catholic abuse scandal), the low committed leave and some of the committed face doubts. That has happened. Will it continue? Nobody knows.

            We do know this. The only reason “nones” are growing is deconversion. “Nones” keep their kids (as far as we can tell) at very low (relative) rates. Since the growth of the atheist part of nones is disproportionally young white males (a declining demographic), one should buy stock in atheism as the future! White males . . . Yesterday’s news.

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            The PRRI survey confirms what you are saying.

          • You are a woman who works with an organization that has people who lie to get paid. In one essay, I said that you had interviewed many people and you had not (yet). I regret the error. Do you regret working with people who keep taking money from well meaning religious people while believing none of what they say and even mocking their beliefs under pseudonyms? You are proud of your helping that grift.

            So let us start with Hugh Ross, Mary Jo Sharp, Marvin Olasky, Holly Ordway, Alister McGrath, Lee Strobel, Francis Collins, Russ Humphreys (these are people prominent enough to make the well known lists and with whom I have shared a platform/conference (including conversations) or worked with and that have also written books. Is this enough for you? They are prominent enough that their status as former atheists can be checked. I talked with Antony Flew . . . who was a deist at death (certainly not an atheist or Christian), but I shant count him because dead., so that’s eight pretty prominent people. When do I got to “many” when it comes to : 1. authors of non-self published books 2. converts from what is a tiny group to start with . . .

          • I do think honesty is important. I think telling lies to people so they give you money they would not give you if they knew the truth is wrong. You do not.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            I’ve not written any books, but as a former atheist I’m happy to chat with you. Even as a kid, I was a pretty obnoxious, “village” atheist, I accidentally evicted our family’s own Unitarian minister once, because I didn’t recognize him; he’d arrived dressed just like others who’d been bringing what I saw as religious superstition with them. Yet I had one friend who was an even fiercer atheist than I was, and thought even darkening Unitarian doors was backsliding on atheist principle. Perhaps he doth protested too much, as I have learned that now he is happily a Christian also


      • Matthew Hullinger

        I agree Mason, the challenge is one that is truly impossible to fulfill as without mentioning where you once were in life there is really no point in going into where you are now.

        I’ve seen John mention wanting to see posts about goodness, beauty, and truth. Yet how can we even know the meaning of these words if we don’t also understand the words badness, ugliness, and dishonesty.

        You cannot even begin to discuss truth without separating it from untruth.

        I’m proud of the article I wrote and that is enough for me. I see no need to continue chasing after the challenger as he moves the goalposts throughout this thread.

        • Linda_LaScola

          Agreed, Matthew – Your post stands on its own.

          • It does stand on its own. In fact, however, it is very easy to talk about what one is doing now without reference to where one was now and after a time it is good to do so. Both religious and anti-religious groups at times exploit the “testimony” and people get stuck in past bad situations. One can in fact understand goodness without reference to evil . . . Just as one can understand “straight line” without reference to “crooked line.” You can certainly discuss truth without any mention of particular untruths. For example, I think Christianity is true. I can talk about the implications of that idea without once mentioning or denigrating ideas that have done horrible damage to friends and to me.

            My goalpost was so simple: stop talking about us and talk about your joyful life. That challenge was not met, but I repeat . . . Matthew obviously had serious problems and was in a group not helping (and contributing to) those problems. I am glad he is getting the help and finding the joy he needs. However, this is NOT an example of a post that leaves us out of things, but what amounts to at least a partial testimonial against his former religious group.

            How hard it is to write: being an atheist and a secular humanist has helped me look at my children in loving ways. I realize that just one brain is more complex than the cosmos without human brains and am full of wonder . . . This wonder translates into a desire to understand, but also to value the valuable. . . .

            Etc. Note that one can begin with ones philosophical assumption, make no put down of the other team/s and work out the implcations without once name calling.

          • Then why did you request: “Talk about your secular lives without referring in a negative way to your lives as believing or non-believing clergy.”

          • Did you ask people to do an impossible thing?

    • Matthew Hullinger

      I understand what you are saying here but without relating where I once was I would have no way of really describing how far I have come. With that said I did attempt to stay away from as much negativity as possible in the post I have written.

      • Matthew: I get that . . . One way of describing your experience is that you were in a group that was just wrong for you. I think all the gains I see in your post (I am leaving your marriage out as I have no way of knowing anything about it) could have been gained in a more sensible religious group. However, I am not arguing you should be religious at the moment, just that being told not to read books or go to psychologists was wrong, but not tied so religion or even Christianity per se. I am glad you are doing better . . . And wish you well.

        • Linda_LaScola

          In his case, being told not to read certain books, etc., was definitely tied to religion and specifically to the brand of Christianity he was raised in.

          • And yet your charge was to not refer negatively. . . So this piece while fine and hopefully helpful to the person who wrote it . . . Did not meet your challenge at the top. At all.

          • Linda_LaScola

            It was not a charge or a challenge. It was a request that I made. I fully approve of it.

          • And he did not meet your request. So my point still stands. This site like a Patheos non-religion in general is almost totally dependent on religion.

          • Linda_LaScola

            That’s your opinion. Mine is different.

          • Your opinion is factually wrong. See your words in italics (“Talk about your secular lives without referring in a negative way to your lives as believing or non-believing clergy.”) and what the person wrote. They were negative about religion and their lives as believing clergy. OK. Fine. Nice post, but not what you asked them to do.

      • Geoff Benson

        Just to clarify Matthew, I thought your post was excellent.

    • In fact here is the request from Linda: “Talk about your secular lives without referring in a negative way to your lives as believing or non-believing clergy.”

      This essay was I hope helpful to the writer but doesn’t do that.

  • Carol Lynn

    Never was a clergy person, but I spent 12 years in Catholic school, for the last three of those a very ‘questioning this faith thing’ person. My parents said I had to go to church every week until I was 18. I walked away at 18 and never looked back. I’m in a 35 years and counting happy marriage. Raised two wonderful, adult, non-believing daughters. Had a fulfilling, if not particularly lucrative, career. I have lots of friends – the kind who do come over and help me paint, move, and eat up leftovers, as I do the same for them. Many and fun hobbies keep me busy. My husband and I travel because we like to see and do new things. This is my joyous secular life in boring detail. What the heck does Reynolds expect a ‘joyous secular life’ to consist of?

    • Sounds good. As a result, I would expect a happy person to let other happy people (namely religious ones) alone and write about a positive secular philosophy. Read Patheos Non-religion for a year and you will discover that if we did not exist the vast majority of the content would vanish. That is sad.

      • On Patheos religious sights we sometimes defend our point of view (I answered 55 questions from an atheist who reads my site this summer), but we mostly work out what it is to be a Christian in the 21st century. Film. Kids. Imagine a non-religious site that was not mostly “anti” and worked out what it means to be secular in America . . . and not just live on the super-majority’s created culture. That is hard work. Smaller religious groups in America do it all the time without resorting to the endless negativity.

        • mason lane

          I think your perspective is quite distorted from cognitive dissonance you, as an intelligent person, must be experiencing trying to be an apologist for the irrational. Isn’t it only natural for those who’ve been bamboozled to want to awake others from their bamboozled religious mental state? It’s love, it’s empathy, it’s helping to free humans from the chains of ancient blood sacrifice filicide religious nonsense. .

          • Shouldn’t we avoid doing off hand psycho-analysis on people we do not know. Imagine if I read this piece above and decided to do the same. Isn’t that both boorish and intellectually irresponsible? Your mileage may vary, but I think so and my colleagues in psychology (in past institution) made a big issue of not doing it.

            I have many friends who felt “bamboozeled” by atheism (of this sort) and either went on to intellectually defensible atheism that focuses of building a secular world view or (in the vast majority of cases) became theists and Christians. They wish you would do the same, but they don’t spend time saying it is “irrational” to be an atheist and doing amateur evaluations of people who disagree. There are intellectually serious atheists (think Daniel Dennet) and ill informed nice guys like Dan Barker. This is equivalent to Richard Swinburne and say Ken Ham. . . Describing my beliefs as “ancient blood sacrifice filicide religious nonsense” makes you part of the problem. Why is atheism so disliked in America? Could this be why?

            Why do I care? First, I have good atheist friends and this site humiliates their views. Why don’t they speak? Bluntly, they hate getting into the tar baby that attacks endlessly. They have no desire as atheists to associate with people who say that their Christain colleague in a (secular) philosophy department (where the atheists are the majority) believe “nonsense,” because they know this to be false. Second, because we are in a Republic and I believe in calm, firm, reason, we need to stop this and come to positive visions (that I hope are compatible) of a secular or religious life.

          • mason lane

            Positve visions are impossible through the distorted delusional irrational lens of supernatural theism and especially of the filicide blood sacrifice nonsense ilk.

          • Those reading this thread will note that the claim is that it is impossible (!) for a Christian (believes in God and Jesus’ work) to have a positive vision. This in a nation with a Christian super-majority that has built so much that is good (not without serious problems) too. . .

            Come on, folks.

            Nobody should say it is impossible for an atheist to have a positive vision with a list of devil words following. The following sentence is an example: Positive vision are impossible through the distorted delusional irrational lense of materialism especially as it denies the existence of half of reality from language to mathematical objects making men mere computers made out of meat.

            That is just not helpful to our Republic, dialog. It also is (obviously) false as the Christian blogs on Patheos frequently post positive stuff with some “against” stuff directed internally and externally. Patheos non-religion is a vast sea of attacks on American forms of Christianity with only a bit of positive secularism.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Your atheist friends can just avoid this site and leave it to people who find value in it.

          • Right. And they do. But maybe a goal should be reaching out in a Republic. I am here for the sake of ATHEIST friends and not just for those who have left atheism for faith. I don’t think atheism is all irrational or that just because we provided the basis for science atheists cannot do it consistently . . .no.

            I am NOT suggesting there is not great value in telling your stories. That is good and will include upper cuts to the chin about institutions I hold dear. Well and good. However, the sheer animus and wild talk (atheism is rational/theism irrational) is not good for we the people.

      • mason lane

        “let other happy people namely religious one alone and write about a positive secular philosophy” Sounds like a message from the Censor Police

        First, no philosophy is “happy” … people are happy or aren’t 🙂

        Secondly, We secularists can actually do both; talk and write about our wonderful (with its ups and downs) secular lives AND ridicule the absurdities of religion. It’s a good, honorable, and valuable thing for former theists to write about and share the negative and often terrible aspects of their lives in religion.

        • Of course, you have the right to write (!) whatever you please. Hate censorship. That’s not the point. If you think using your platform to (mostly) ridicule religion and wise to have the temerity to think it all absurd (!), then that is your right, but it is a bit sad. Trust me I know many former atheists who write and share the negative and terrible aspects of their lives in atheism. They don’t spend the vast majority of their “airtime” in public doing this. . . I think it breaks the comity necessary to our global community where you are shrinking (relatively).

          Idea: you need religious allies and attack, attack, attack is not good. Religious people care (to the extent we care), because in the Republic we need to all work together.

          As for happy I was using it in the secondary sense of fortunate or convenient so in fact a philosophy can be happy (as philosophers have said if writing in English) and not just philosophers. Happy is the philosopher who finds a happy philosophy. 🙂

        • ctcss

          It’s a good, honorable, and valuable thing for former theists to write
          about and share the negative and often terrible aspects of their lives
          in their specific former religion, hopefully recognizing that their specific religious experience is not universally experienced by others.</b).

          Mason, if your intent is to be intellectually honest, at least be willing to point out that your former experience does not equate to all other people’s experiences. Your unhappy experience was yours and very likely, the experience of a number of your colleagues. It certainly hasn’t been mine, nor those of my group.

          Every specific group has to be examined fairly and carefully, and independently of all others. Any other approach just fosters helpful prejudice.

          • Linda_LaScola

            There is nothing dishonest in Mason’s words. There is no indication that he is making a blanket statement and he is well aware, having listened to the diverse stories of many formerly religious people that there are many different kinds of experiences.

          • Is it wrong to lie so you make money? Simple question to test your beliefs about honesty. Second, are religious people rational? I gladly admit some atheists (see Michael Shermer) are rational though others are not. Are some religious people as rational (not as right) as you?

      • Carol Lynn

        It’s only sad in that we need to push back against the encroachment of religion into secular affairs. When women and the LGBTQ are accepted as fully human and religion and religious excuses for policy stay out of government, I’d be happy for this to vanish and to read and comment exclusively on my other hobbies instead.

        • Since Carol we are a growing percentage of the global population . . . You might think about making religious allies and considering why most of the world does not agree with you. (Avoid racist and enthnocentric assumptions they are “ignorant” or less educated.) Also with a Christian super majority for its entire history asking the majority to “stay out of government” is probably not a winning strategy. Try working with us!

          • Carol Lynn

            Working with the religious towards what end? Denying basic human rights to segments of the population? Perhaps the religious should try to allow everyone the maximum of autonomy and personal freedom, whatever that means to them, without trying to legislate any particular religion’s quirks into law. Try working with us here. When the religious stop legislating against human rights, I’ll be happy to let them believe and act any way they want without pushback. I just want the same courtesy in return. Your casual assumption that atheists are the deluded ones is exactly as annoying as you find some atheists’ assumptions about religion. Seriously, work with us here. I am far too familiar with the history of the spread of religion in general and Christianity in particular for your “Christian super-majority’ comment to mean anything more than you are deluded or ignorant about how that came about. And I am very happy that your claim that the religious are a growing part of the global population is simply wrong. Secular societies do much better globally than religious ones and are the ones growing.

          • Generally the more secular a society in the contemporary world the lower the birthrate (for good and bad).

            We should discuss what basic human rights are and what the basis of those rights should be . . .we cannot assume either side is right. Autonomy and personal freedom are some good values, but there are other good values such as decency and communitarianism. FInding a balance between all these goods is hard.

            I don’t think one should legislate one’s “quirks” into law whatever the basis of the moral reasoning: secular or religious. All legislation is limiting someone from doing something they thought was good . . . and so I favor a small government that makes as little as possible illegal and makes as much as possible permissible. For example, I have long opposed laws banning sex behaviors, but also oppose laws forcing people to approve or participate in any way in those behaviors.

            I don’t assume atheists are deluded. Much of my education, I owe to atheists and am thankful for them.

            Christianity (like secularism) spread through many means, some good and some bad. This is also true of atheism. In China and parts of Eastern Europe, there are more atheists because atheism was spread (and is being maintained) by force. This is bad and was equally bad when Christians did the same. We agree here.

            Finally, your assertion that secular societies are growing as a percentage of global population denies the facts. France may be growing more secular, but nations like France are a shrinking percentage of the global population. Nations like India, Kenya, and Nigeria are the future in terms of population. See this study:

            We can disagree on ideas and discuss them civilly but not on facts. In the USA, we have had a period of relative decline in the percentage of religious people (even in groups where there are more religious people) while globally there is a relative decline in the percentage of secular people (even though there is a small increase in overall secular numbers).

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Of course if atheism is true, then there can be no such thing as “basic human rights”, thus no danger that someone will legislate against the non-existent..

            If you want more than some polite legal fiction that you have rights, if you want genuine human rights, “unalienable” ones, you want the understanding that rights are “endowed by their Creator”, and thus believers in that Creator are your ultimately your best friends for maintaining a free society

      • mason lane

        Happily vanish and rational secular people would be thrilled not to even address theistic problems in society. You’re the only one sad about it as you advocate that being delusional is fine. Happy does not mean the life a person is moral, rational, empathetic, or intellectually honest. Human history is full of political and religious movements with people who were happy abusing others in the name of their theistic beliefs.

    • Linda_LaScola

      I can relate, Carol Lynn, although my Catholic experience was different from yours. I’m happy to be an atheist, but not joyous — and I was not joyous to be religious — it’s just what I was.

      I AM joyous about my role in starting The Clergy Project. I see how grateful current and former clergy are to have a private place to talk with each other about their struggles and about resolving them.

      • I am sorry about the Project, not because I oppose a place for current or former clergy having a place to talk, but based on the ethics the Project has either encouraged or at least not discouraged.

        • Linda_LaScola

          I’ve said here – and in the book, From Apostle to Apostate, by Catherine Dunphy, that I’d like to see The Clergy Project become obsolete — in the sense that I hope the day comes when people don’t become clergy in the first place, so they won’t need support when their beliefs change. I have similar feelings for non-clergy, though their situation is not so dire.

          Meanwhile, I’m personally proud of The Clergy Project and delighted that it provides a much needed outlet for the good people it serves.

          • Given global population trends which show that far from religion becoming obsolete it is secularism that is declining as a pecentage of the global population wouldn’t it be wiser to make allies?

            Equally needy are the kids who grow up in non-religious homes with people who rant about “Sky Daddy” and think all religion is irrational and finally break free of the anger and leave. Much pain to go around . . .

            And it is very good indeed for people who do not think religion is true to leave cleanly, especially if they have been awash in Jim Bakker and Precious Moments theology, just as it is good for those who become convinced that Dad’s atheist t-shirt collection and Dan Barker ditty’s were intolerable!

            However some of the “good people” the Clergy Project serves take money for lying long after they no longer believe what they claim to believe. That is a form of fraud. I would encourage them to stop doing that, but we have discussed that before. Grift is bad. . . Christian or atheist.

          • Carol Lynn

            You keep asserting it, but you are simply wrong about secularism declining. If my life and my kids are any example, there was no ranting about sky-daddies, no rants about the irrationality of religion, no anger. Just good people living quietly good lives, glad that society in general was becoming more and more open to alternate views and lifestyles until the religious leaders got their knickers in a twist as their power declined and played on the worst parts of society to hold onto whatever political power they could. The anti-abortion position that is now the litmus test is younger than the Happy Meal™. I’m old enough to remember when it happened and the cultural blindness that insists that it was the same forever and ever amen disgusts me. I am angry now as I never was before. I will no longer tolerate religious intolerance. So, sure, I am happy to make allies among the religious who do not try and control the lives of other people who not share their religion. Unfortunately, it seems that those are a minority of people who call themselves religious.

          • ctcss

            So, sure, I am happy to make allies among the religious who do not try and control the lives of other people who not share their religion. Unfortunately, it seems that those are a minority of people who call themselves religious.

            Which means that your problem (and mine, since I am from a very non-mainstream Christian sect) is cultural and political, not religious. If religion caused all problems, every political and cultural aspect that you are bothered by would be found in all religions, without exception. But luckily for all of us in the US, we have the first amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and well as the right to free speech and the press, and the right to form alliances with others so as to make our case heard.

            People with common grievances, even if they do not share all of each other’s ideas, can profitably join together in pressing for correction of problems in the public square.

          • Did you read all the link you cite? I think not: religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” Read this thread and you see extreme assertions about all religion and rationality. Idea: in a democracy /Republic morality will be defined ultimately by what the majority want. We don’t agree. Your morality comes from your philosophy and mine from mine. Yours is not privileged because it has no God.

          • Carol Lynn

            “Argumentum ad populum. … In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for “argument to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition is true because many or most people believe it: “If many believe so, it is so.”

            Are you sure you still want to invoke ‘there’s more of us!’ as your go-to justification to run roughshod over everyone else and have them conform to your particular worldview? What if Islam achieves a world-wide majority? To be consistent with your positions above, I would expect you convert because there are more of them so they must be right, but I somehow feel that you will not be doing that.

            You are still wrong as the to relative position of a religious v secular worldview predominating in the future if current trends hold. However, the secular position does not rely on ‘there’s more of us’ to justify giving everyone human rights and allowing people to live their lives as they see fit instead of conforming to any particular religious doctrine.

            Perhaps try harder to discuss your position without resorting to obvious fallacies. You are not impressing me – or probably anyone else here.

          • I qualified in logic, but thanks for the reminder, always useful.

            I am not arguing that we are right because we are many, but that it would be prudent not to write off all religious and to make allies where you can. That is not a fallacy.

            If Islam becomes the majority here, as they have in the nations where my own church is based (Syria), then that would not make them right, but would mean working with reasonable Muslim people (the vast majority) is necessary. We have not converted, because we are not persuaded, but we also don’t go out of our way to make foolish inflammatory statements.

            Of course, making inflammatory statements is probably never good, but this gives special reason not to do so.

            Why are you so intent on denying the data? Secularism is shrinking relative to global population. There is no contrary data. France is shrinking relative to the globe . . . And you are growing there. Look at the data:

          • Finally, we don’t agree about the nature of human rights on some issues. We both are committed to settling the issues through reason and democratic processes.

          • Carol Lynn

            “the total number of religiously unaffiliated people (which includes atheists, agnostics and those who do not identify with any religion in particular) is expected to rise in absolute terms, from 1.17 billion in 2015 to 1.20 billion in 2060.”

            “China, with its large population and lack of reliable data on religious switching, is a wild card in our analysis. This is especially true for the religiously unaffiliated population because more than 700 million people of the 1.17 billion who do not identify with any religion live in China.

            Some experts believe the Christian population in China is rising while the religiously unaffiliated population is falling. If this is true – and the trend continues – religious “nones” could decline as a share of the world’s population even more than the Pew Research Center study projects.”

            So… experts disagree and your assertion of the decline of secularism depends on two huge assumptions – “If this is true – and the trend continues” – so, no, I can also read the data and not see what you see.

            Besides a secular government is not incompatible with a population that consists of people of many different religions and people of no religion at all. I don’t think many reasonable atheists are calling for an end to all religion any more than many reasonable religious people are calling for persecution of atheists or people of different religion from themselves. The radical fringe of any position, whether religious or atheist, does not speak for the majority. The way to work together is to promote a secular society in which no one viewpoint on religion or the lack thereof has the right to suppress any other. From your interaction with me here, that seems to be an idea which you give nice lip service to but seem opposed to in practice.

          • The study you cite shows that the percentage of unaffiliated will decline, which is my claim. This is similar to the much trumpeted “decline” of religion in America where many religious groups grew in raw numbers but did not keep up with population growth. You cite the (small) growth in raw numbers, but is inadequate to keep pace with religious growth.

            These are not my assumptions, but those of the relevant experts. Chinese atheists actively persecute Christians and other religious. As a result, the Pew Study is saying they may underestimate the global decline in the percentage of nones. They picked the more conservative numbers (which help team “nones), but these more conservative numbers generate the result that nones are shrinking as a percentage of global population. The worst news for nones is, as your quote points out, that there is good reason to think the decline in nones and atheists in China more severe.

            If you read the data and see anything other than a decline in the percentage of “nones,” then you are disagreeing with the experts. Are you qualified in this area? Look at the bottom line: the same people you use to tout a percentage decline (thought still a super majority) of Christians in America see a percentage decline in nones globally. You cannot have it both ways.

            Reading is fundamental.

            On a separate point: You are confused with two different English uses of “Secular”. . . “Secular” can mean opposed to religion (secularism) or it can mean not directly related to the church. All governments in an America with a continuous Christian super-majority have been secular in the second sense. America has never had a secular government in the first sense.

          • Carol Lynn

            Sigh – Look, way back in the OP, you asked for people who live ‘joyous secular lives’ to speak out and I did. Your replies have given me no new hope that Christians can engage in productive dialog. I am not the one confused about the meaning of ‘secular’. You are the one who said that morality in the USA is determined by majority rule (an obvious fallacy) and that since Christians have an overwhelming super-majority, I should just stop expecting anything but Christian morality to rule. Sorry. Not acceptable. That isn’t how the First Amendment is supposed to work. That isn’t how it’s going to work.

            I am done with this unproductive dialogue – and of course now you can swan around and preen yourself on your good judgement about how right you were that atheists are not interested in talking sense with sincere religious people. You are the type of religious person making the quiet ‘joyous secularists’ into anti-religious activists as much as anyone else on the religious side.

          • I think public morality will ultimately be decided by what the majority wishes in a Republic. That is both a strength and weakness of our form of government.

            I am sorry this dialog is not productive. My goal is always to have productive conversation. I try to correct my errors, but sometimes it is hard to do if terms are used differently. For example, in philosophy an error is not a fallacy. A fallacy is an error in the form of reasoning. I don’t see how a statement that in our form of government (for good or bad) the morality of that is accepted will be determined by the majority is a fallacy. It might be wrong.

            Here is what I meant (and why I don’t think it is wrong). True morality (what is right and wrong) is not determined by majority vote in reality. However, what a society deems moral (which can change with opinion polls) is important to living one’s life. For example, when a thing is viewed as immoral by the majority (even if really moral), they can pass laws banning or discouraging the behavior. In a Republic everyone gets to argue from the basis of what they think “true morality” is to impact government behavior.

            In fact, I do not believe what you think I said about Christians and our government. In a Republic, all of us must expect that each citizen will do her best to discover what is moral and (we hope) vote her conscience at the ballot box. Since we do not all agree, if there is a super majority on an issue, then the minority will have to tolerate losing on that issue. For example, a super majority in the USA think warfare can be done morally. As a result, pacifists have to pay for the military in their taxes. On the other hand, the super-majority has always been willing to extend as much tolerance as possible to the “losers” . . . we exempt conscientious objectors to fighting services.

            As for the First Amendment, it forbids establishing a state religion (all good!) and this was passed when Christians were just about the only game in town. We have never wanted a state church and do not want one now.

            I have no desire to “swan around and preen” since at my age my swanning and preening days are long gone. I am sorry you are done with this dialog. Understanding is long . . . and especially in written form (where emotions are not obvious) it takes time to get to know each other.

            I don’t think your posts began with an open minded tone to the global majority on things like sex issues, but perhaps that is my misreading. That is why I keep listening and trying to respond, best I can. We don’t agree on sexual morality (obviously), but I try to listen to people who disagree. Simply stating that the other person’s perspective is bad is not productive.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I appreciate your efforts, Carol Lynn. I would call the dialogue frustrating, rather than non-productive. I think it is productive for others reading here to see the differences between the thinking of you and JM Reynolds.

          • Experts disagree about how fast the percentage of nones is falling globally, not that it is falling.

          • I don’t imagine I will “impress” anyone here. The data is, however, not impressed with denials. Seculars are in relative decline:

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “Your morality comes from your philosophy and mine from mine. Yours is not privileged because it has no God.”

            As a secularist myself, I look upon that statement as a feature, not a bug. So thank you for that.

  • Asked: “Talk about your secular lives without referring in a negative way to your lives as believing or non-believing clergy.”

    Essay: Doesn’t.

    • Linda_LaScola

      A comment you made inspired this post, but we do not expect your approval. From what you’ve written, that would only come with the disbanding of The Clergy Project.

      • I think a clergy project helping people who bravely followed their convictions is a good thing. I think touting people who lie to nice folk while getting their money is a bad thing. Do you?

        • I don’t approve of your lack of intellectual ethics if you refuse to disapprove of people who keep collecting pay checks for telling lies.

        • mason lane

          That’s nice of you to note. Yes, it is a “bad thing”, especially for the victim has dedicated their entire life to what they now realize is nothing but a human belief scam.

          Try and imagine how you’d do if you had to walk in their shoes for a day, a week, a month, a year? Married to an Evangelical, 3 kids, only education in theology (nonsense) pastor of a church in a small town in Alabama. JUST WHAT WOULD YOU DO if you were this person who has bravely followed their convictions?

          Possibly consider coming down several steps on your self-righteous pedestal of pious judgement?

          Getting out of a fundamentalist religion, whether Evangelical, Islamic or Jewish) or a crime family that a person was bullied into as a credulous child isn’t quite that simple. They built their life around and on, career, children, marriage, friendships around the theistic fables and now that they’ve realized they believed the lies, and are teaching/preaching the lies, you just expect them to be able to figure their way out of the Evangelical spider web cult life?

          Nobody gets “touted” by The Clergy Project, but offered support, encouragement, advise, community, and free secular counseling as they, as you aptly say “bravely”, try and crawl and dig themselves out of the Evangelical garbage dump.

          • First, that a thing is hard is why we have ethics. Ethics (even in secular terms) are there for when a moral choice is hard.

            Second, I agree it is hard. I have made such choices and they led to hard times.

            Third, calling theology education “nonsense” is not helpful to dialog. It is just insulting your interlocutor. Why call names? I get it: you think I am wrong.

            Fourth: It is not self-righteous to tell someone that they should not deceive people and take their money, just because in that person’s circumstance there seems few options that support the same standard of living.

            This happens frequently in jobs. People should no longer sell a product they think harmful (for money) or push ideas in a company they now think dangerous. Courage would not be courage if was not very hard not to do so. We should all be willing to live by that standard.

            The idea is say: “You are going to have to tell the truth and that will probably mean losing your job.” Helping is finding new jobs (as it appears the Clergy Project does do) and providing funds. Not helping: encouraging or supporting someone to keep lying for a while to keep getting paid.

            Using nice people so you get a soft landing is not good.

            Fifth, your last bit is just a farrago of insults. Mainstream Evangelicalism is not cultic. Calling normal child rearing by religious people “bullying” is not supported by psychology and diminishes real bullying.

            Finally, “getting out” is hard socially: all sympathy there. No sympathy for putting on an act to keep getting a check. That’s fraud and many people running a fraud have reasons why we should sympathize. In fact, I do sympathize, but the action is still wrong.

    • mason lane

      Of course the task has an inherent Catch 22, like asking a Jewish Holocaust survivor to talk about their life after Auschwitz without any juxtaposition with Auschwitz and after freedom, or anyone who has been victimized.

      John, Evangelicals like you ought to be ashamed for the mental and emotional abuse and scaring you continue to inflict on credulous children, but in your filicide ancient religious delusion you are blind to your social illness. At least liberal Christian have evolved past the sadomasochistic religious nonsense you still espouse.

      I personally know about over 600 ex-clergy who were Evangelicals like you but found the fortitude to admit they were bamboozled and were bamboozling others. Maybe you will discover that kind of intellectual courage one day and come out of the darkness of the Evangelical cult and into the light of the rational. Maybe these Israeli Jews will inspire you.


      • Comparing Evangelicals to those who perpetuated the Holocaust is offensive. It is why nobody outside your circle takes this seriously. 600 ministers is one tiny sect compared to the thousands of ministers.

        • mason lane

          It’s a comparison to make the point and compare with all who have ever been victimized. Being indoctrinated into Evangelical Christianity (usually bullied as a child) is a form of mental abuse that creates a perpetual form of Stockholm Syndrome for the victim, unless they can muster the courage to break free of the brainwashing chains.

          What Evangelicals like you do to credulous children is psychologically abusive and destroys a child’s natural self esteem. You’d be shocked to know how many Evangelicals who are caught in the pulpit because they have no other career training, are actually atheists.

          600 is only the tip of a much larger titanic size iceberg. Most unbelieving clergy still don’t know about The Clergy Project. You might be interested to learn that the by far most common reason Evangelical ministers become atheists is reading the bible. (probably Lucifer was whispering in their ear simultaneously 🙂 )

          Hope you’re enjoying the exchange, I am; thanks for participating. It’s like Laura Ingraham going on the Bill Maher HBO Show.

          I was once wore your Evangelical crippling shoes. There’s a brand new pair of shoes just waiting for you if begin your pilgrimage on the rational path.

          • I tried on your atheist shoes: lost much, gained nothing. I am enjoying. Want to follow the rational path with all my heart . . . that is why (like most the world) I am a theist. As for your “psychology” claims. . . sorry. It isn’t good psychology. Raising kids is not brainwashing and most Evangelical kids do not become “nones.”

          • mason lane

            Raising kids on fable lies, bloody filicism, and anti-science is healthy? Kids raised like that who are longing for their “King” to rule planet Earth makes them, like most Evangelicals today, good loyal believing followers of the next wanna be Fuehrer Don Trump. Evangelicals already have the mind-set to worship and obey a totalitarian leader; it’s in their theological DNA.

          • I don’t agree that the Bible is only made up of fables, but fables are useful (see Aesop as one example) in raising children.

            I do not think “bloody filicism” is a helpful description of Jesus’ sacrifice of self for his friends any more than I think “poisonous philosophocide” would be a helpful description of the death of Socrates. It assumes what it sets out to prove.

            Religion is not anti-science. Ask Francis Collins or explore the Christian roots of most of modern philosophy of science that makes science possible.

            Comparing Trump to Hitler or Mussolini is unhelpful hyperbole. I say this as a person who has take on Trump support in my community consistently. In talking to those who do support or did support Trump, the vast majority preferred him to the alternative (Clinton). Many more hoped to get more good than bad, but did not like Trump personally. Few want a stronger and more expansive government or support totalitarianism. It is not in their DNA.

            We agree on not supporting President Trump. We must understand and not parody the vast majority of his religious voters. If we do, we have real hope of peeling off many (as is happening). If you write things like this, you will convince many that their choice is people who think them proto-fascist and evil and Trump. Let’s not do that.

          • That is not the experience of most Evangelical children or the opinon of psychologists about religious child rearing.

            As for people lying in the pulpit, I would not be shocked to discover people lie for money, and feel “trapped” into doing so. One meets grifters of all kinds. I have been in the position of needing to quit over changed beliefs. It is hard, but necessary to be honest. Yes?

            You would be shocked that the most common reason for atheists to become Christians is reason and dealing with folk atheist culture that assumes opponents are engaging in “mental abuse” by raising their children lovingly in the context of what they think is true (as we all do).

            You should also realize that the kind of talk you are using has been used by states like atheist China to steal children from parents or in places like Russia to place people I know in mental institutions. Maybe just mean it rhetorically (surely you don’t take the notion that raising kids religiously is child abuse seriously!), but this kind of loose talk (not defended by any psychology association) has been used to cause harm to real people.

            I was the senior academic officer for one fully accredited (APA) psychology BA-grad program and worked at a school that went through an accredited doctoral degree. The notion that normal Evangelical child rearing is “abuse” is not accepted by even the left-of-center APA.

          • It is offensive to compare the six million dead Jewish people killed by Nazis with the actions of Evangelical people in America. They are nothing alike.

          • mason lane

            The “comparison” was about not asking a victim to talk about their negative experience, not how many were killed etc. Of course Evangelical Catholics did torture and kill what would be by comparative numbers to 1942 millions, and American Evangelicals have mentally abused millions of children and divided and/or destroyed countless numbers of families.

          • That is a falsehood and slander. It is unsupported by the APA (which accredits Evangelical psychology programs. Mason: this kind of extremist atheist rhetoric was used to kill millions of Christian and is being used to kill thousands today. You surely are not like those atheists, but these falsehoods do not help our Republc or dialog.

          • Linda: is this kind of slander acceptable to you? I have said nothing comparable to this about atheism in America . . . Ever. This is not supported by the APA (best psychology) or history.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I’m not judging responses or comparing them.

          • So comparing millions of good Americans raising nice kids to the Holocaust doesn’t get a judgement.

          • Gratuitous Holocaust comparisons are some of the most hurtful statements in our society. Isn’t it incumbent on us to stop them?

      • Dr_Grabowski

        “Evangelicals…ought to be ashamed?”

        On or In what are you grounding this “ought to?”

        Is it your own personal likes and dislikes, or are you rather suggesting or implying that the universe has a built-in objective moral structure, direction or intention?

  • Mr. Hullinger:

    Let me sum up. I am sorry for your experience and pain. I am glad that you are doing better and have found relative joy.

    My differences with atheism do not prevent sheer happiness that anyone finds inquiry, openness to doubt, and a life that reasonable.

    As for our differences, I don’t your piece as an attempt to argue, but share so let me express areas of agreement with your present view (consistent with my Christianity):

    1. I too celebrate the value of doubt.
    2. We share a belief in the power of science and reason.
    3. We share a commitment to open minded and open ended discourse.
    4. We both think that we should read books and understand them . . . Not ban them.
    5. We are both thankful for psychology and psychiatry and the ways it can help.

    Maybe that is a good start. I did not wish my disagreements with others or some atheists here to hide this fact. If you ever want to discuss life, the universe, or Astros baseball, drop me a line.


    • I curious, Mr. Reynolds, since you are SO interested in dialog, then why do you have comments turned off on your own blog? You’ve posted over 70 notes on this thread. With that type of enthusiasm for interaction, one would think you’d have a active community of people interacting and discussing. Just curious.

      • In fact, a sense that one should not hit and run in a discussion is a one reason I turn off comments: limited time combined with a commitment to finish a dialog I start. I dialog for a living (that includes listening!) and class goes past time (voluntarily) most days for college students! I wrote a piece recently on my reasons for closing comments here: If you would like to discuss them, have at it.

        I was contacted here to post and having found the OP stimulating (and well written), I decided to comment, making a commitment to hear out critics and respond best I can. This has been most enjoyable.

        • Thanks for the answer.

        • Linda_LaScola

          I sent John Mark 2 emails via third parties saying this: “Hello John Mark — This is to alert you to the secularism series we’re doing on The Rational Doubt Blog, based on your suggestion: “Stop talking endlessly about us for a month and tell us about your joyful secular lives in detail.” Here’s the link:

          I hope you have a chance to tune in. And thank you for the suggestion.”

          I did not ask you to comment, though I’m not surprised or upset that you did. You commented quite a lot on an earlier thread, without an invitation to comment (no one needs an invitation) or an alert about the blog.

          • I sometimes comment when I have time on something that catches my interest. As I said above I try to read much of Pathos.

            Linda: FYI- The third party was the info line at our school. Given our size as a start up that is only-kind-of a third party! What you are saying is odd given that two days ago in the comments on this thread you wrote (and I read): “I hope John Mark Reynolds comes here to provide his own opinion. I contacted him this AM through an “info” email address at a school he heads. I couldn’t find a personal address for him.”

            Linda is my reading your hope that I come here and provide my opinion not asking me to comment?

          • Linda_LaScola

            I did not ask you to comment in the 2 emails I sent you via third parties. I hoped you would respond to Geoff Benson when he posted on the blog. And you did!

          • OK then. We can do this. Our Republic needs all of us to pull together and recognize the merits of each position.

          • Lol

        • mason lane

          Yeah, I’ve enjoyed playing hard ball too 🙂

      • Love to hear you @jmnr or on Facebook at Eidos.

    • mason lane

      So like my Evangelical friends who readily admit their beliefs are irrational … magical “miracles”, zombies, a human coming to life after three days dead & long past rigor mortis, events that defy the laws of science etc. … I assume you also compartmentalize your rational and irrational thoughts/beliefs.

      You say you have belief in the power of science and reason, but you must also believe in a supernatural realm where the power of science and reason are invalidated and don’t apply. How do you explain this?

      • We should not have irrational beliefs. Your Evangelical friends are wrong to embrace beliefs they think irrational. Christians don’t.

  • carolyntclark

    hmm….hard to do without comparisons. The best I can come up with is the analogy of post-cataract surgery,

    There’s an immediate surprise and elation when the clouded lenses are removed. Wow,everyday things are seen clearer, truer, brighter, more detailed
    Safety and sure-footedness are enhanced with the ability to recognize hazards.
    There’s relief from the constant awareness of poor vision and the need to compensate.
    The burden of squinting, second-guessing, worrying about perception and accuracy is lifted.
    With improved good vision life becomes more normal, spontaneous and enjoyable.
    …all very descriptive of my religion wake-up call.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Good work, Carolyn!

      • That is a great deal like my realization that atheism and secularism were dead ends. My guess is that these are common feeling in all big changes or intellectual movements. That is interesting.

        • But really never let a good thing be defined by what you think is not as good a thing . . . as my Canadian friends point out they don’t want to self-define as the Not-USA.

        • mason lane

          A dead end? Elucidate.

          You quit too soon John. Don’t give up. There’s so much overwhelming evidence the Jesus fable and the bible stores are myths.

          • I never give up. I love following arguments where they lead. So far (though fables are important) I see no literary evidence the Gospels fit the fable genre. I love studying myth and there are Bible stories that fit that genre (doesn’t make them useless or even historically false)… in any case feel free to give me some books to read and I will.

          • mason lane

            “I see no literary evidence the Gospels fit the fable genre” hmmmm … you really don’t need a book.

            Here are 37 fable miracles in the “gospels” … some major some more minor. And let’s not forget the virgin birth tale, zombies in Jerusalem, and the Jesus fable character defying gravity and ascending into the heaven without the need of a winged horse like Mohamed. 🙂

            Just to make sure were on the same page: Fable, verb
            1. tell fictitious tales.

          • You do know most things you say are simply circular asserations and not arguments?

        • carolyntclark

          Really ? Leaving the cerebral position of verifiable logic and common sense for a mysterious world of magical hocus-pocus assures you that you’ve discovered actuality ?
          Come on now. Wishful thinking is not an intelligent alternative for common sense.
          No, this awakening is not the “feeling in all big changes or intellectual movements” that you refer to.
          But I know where you’re coming from. I was once there. The epiphany either happens or it doesn’t. I could only wish that light-bulb moment of clarity for everyone.

          •Reply•Share ›

          • Well, of course I don’t think I left logic, still teach it and try to use it to form arguments. (BTW: “verifiable” is an odd adjective to use about logic which helps in forming valid arguments.) We agree on much, however!

            We both think:
            1. wishing thinking is not a good alternative to common sense.
            2. we both do not want to base our beliefs on magic

            We disagree on what a good sound argument based on evidence tells us about the world. There is no reason to muck up that disagreement and miss our most excellent agreement.

          • carolyntclark

            Meaning of “magic” in the English Dictionary

            “magic” in English

            See all translations
            noun [ U ] UK ​ /ˈmædʒ.ɪk/ US ​ /ˈmædʒ.ɪk/
            magic noun [ U ] (SPECIAL POWER)

            A2 the use of special powers to make things happen that would usually be impossible, such as in stories for children:
            The group is known for its belief in witchcraft and magic.
            As if by magic/Like magic, the car changes into a boat when it hits the water.

            ****holy men walk on water, bread and fish miraculously multiply, water turns to wine, dead bodies exit tombs, we will live happily ever after.****

          • You might read CS Lewis “Miracles” to see the distinction between “magic” and “miracles.” By the way: you cannot use dictionaries to determine a controversial topic since dictionaries capture common usage and do not (generally) capture more sophisticated uses. That’s why college freshmen are not allowed to say: “As the Webster dictionary defines it. . . “ in a paper.

            Note that you would accept all those things if they were the use of science you did not understand, they are remarkable acts, but that need not mean they are magical.

          • carolyntclark

            In speaking of the supernatural, I don’t accept the opinion of C.S. Lewis or any learned pseudo-theologians. Humanity has zero ability to understand the inscrutable.
            If there is a God, they certainly have no more access to IT than I or you do. Scientists can validly be knowledgeable in their field.
            Inexplicable phenomenon do occur, that doesn’t make them miracles.
            Documented growth of a missing limb would be a game-changer.

          • Lewis was not a theologian.

            We can’t understand the inscrutable (of course), but that doesn’t mean the inscrutable couldn’t scrutinize us and reveal Himself.

            You can’t call an event magic when it may only be inexplicable.

          • carolyntclark

            I know who C.S, Lewis is. I was only extending my disregard to persons who claim to be the recipients of god communication or revelation.
            Religion is teeming with such hucksters.
            With magic, people know they’re being tricked. Not so when it’s called a miracle.

          • Isn’t a dismissive attitude arrogant? We have already seen that events you can not explain need not be magic … they may have a mechanism you don’t know. So it is with a miracle … a very powerful personal agent (God) does something using means you don’t grasp and you dismiss it.

          • carolyntclark

            Sometimes it needs to be tuned, but our evolutionary survival instincts provide a pretty accurate B.S. meter. I am arrogantly dismissive of B.S.

          • OK. That runs the risk of being a case of an epistemic bubble, right?

          • carolyntclark

            Right ! ..vs. the illusionary religious bubble. Choose your bubble.

          • I prefer to avoid all bubbles.

          • mason lane

            John, This kind of condescension only soils your polite troll cape. You seem to be making it clear that words and science have no meaning to you. Just what source is acceptable for the agreed definition of a word today, the professor’s?

            You soil the beautiful word science with this kind of absurd obfuscation and worst red herring I’ve ever seen cast … “Note that you would accept all those things if they were the use of science you did not understand, they are remarkable acts, but that need not mean they are magical.” And if elephants could fly you’d be amazed wouldn’t you even though you couldn’t understand why. Did you overdose on LSD in your teenage years have you just ingested dangerous toxic levels of the strung out Christian apologists? 🙂


          • I have never thought suggesting a book as condescension, but ok. Word meaning is very important in my discipline (philosophy) and I care about it. A good source for a definition in a field is a dictionary for that field, but even then that is only the way the word is used. Philosophers work hard to make definitions tighter, so a better definition might be proposed in a paper.

            If I saw an elephant fly (insert Dumbo song here), I would be amazed. I would not dismiss it just because I did not (yet) know how it happened. I would consider if I had ingested a drug. I would look for any explanation, but would look for one. Is there a reason to post images I will find offensive? Obviously you have the right, but I wish you would not.

          • mason lane

            “Verifiable” evidence, conclusion, belief, … not logic or the scientific method used to acquire the evidence. The Christian Evangelical belief is based on belief without evidence in total contrast to the methods of science and a rationally based life.

            But you DO leave logic and science when it comes to your irrational supernatural religious beliefs. I think you’ve made it clear you compartmentalize you’re thinking. This certainly must create some conflict and cognitive dissonance in your brain, and if not, how do you reconcile your disbanding the use of the scientific method and the requirement for verifiable evidence when it comes to your Christian supernatural religious beliefs?

            I contend that you have nil requirement and abandon the laws of science when it comes to your religious and belief. Do you accept the proven science of Evolution with the fossil record, carbon 14 dating and further conclusive DNA, or are you a bible creationist, … maybe a theistic Evolutionist?

            I think you can make claim to be a partial person of science, the rational, and logic, but only partial since you abandon those beautiful tools of human knowledge when it comes to your religious beliefs.

          • Nobody should believe anything without evidence or good reason. People in general should not have beliefs that reject the methods of science (if they are relevant) or reason.

            One should not leave science “behind,” though a non-scientific field (like math) will require different methods.

            I do not compartmentalize my thinking. I don’t use scientific methods for non-scientific questions (ethics is another example). That is part of unified thinking using the right tool in the right place.

            I do not abandon any tool of human knowledge where relevant, including in religion.

        • Sophotroph

          A politeness troll! Holy crap, I haven’t seen one of these in the wild for ages!

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          John, I am very sad to hear that you think atheism and secularism are dead ends. I don’t understand why you have to demean someone else’s choices and/or lifestyle to validate your own? In the case of atheism, it isn’t a lifestyle or a world view, any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby. Secularism also seems to be chunking along just fine regardless of your opinion that it is a dead end. Maybe it is just me that doesn’t understand what you mean by dead end? As far as a big change or intellectual movement, I am also at a loss. I am seventy years old and I have a very pleasant retirement, people whom I love and who love me back, I travel, read books, eat, drink and am merry. No big intellectual movement or change of any kind – just living the dream. I hope my satisfying life isn’t a disappointment to you because I wouldn’t want my life to be any other way.

          • I was responding to a post saying religion was a dead end. I am glad you are happy. Good. I am giving what I found in studying and considering atheism and secularism. I am thankful we live in a society where we can both pursue our approaches to life.

    • mason lane

      Yeah, … with me it was like have distorted filters and chains removed from my entire life. Having had cataract surgery, you’ve chosen an excellent analogy.

    • Matthew Hullinger

      Awesome analogy. Great job!